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  • Writer's pictureDAWG NEWS DAILY

Bulldogs Rally Past Buckeyes In Playoff Semifinal

ATLANTA -- Just when it looked like the Georgia football team was in deep, deep trouble, the Bulldogs found a way to survive.

The No. 1 Georgia football team's quest for a second straight national championship seemed all but lost in the fourth quarter of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl late Saturday night. Trailing No. 4 Ohio State by 14 points, the Bulldogs made the critical plays in all phases of the game to rally for a 42-41 win in the College Football Playoff semifinals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

With eight seconds left, and a crowd of 79,330 holding its breath, the Buckeye's kicker, Noah Ruggles, missed a 50-yard field-goal attempt that would have sent Ohio State (12-1) to the National Championship Game. He missed and the Bulldogs (14-0) were able to survive and advance.

Georgia will meet No. 3 TCU in the National Championship Game on Jan. 9, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. The Horned Frogs upset No. 2 Michigan, 51-45, in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.

Georgia outgained the Buckeyes 533-467, with quarterback Stetson Bennett completing 23 of 34 passes for 398 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. OSU's C.J. Stroud finished 23 pot 34 for 348 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bulldogs' opening drive, after a quick stop of the Buckeyes that included a 10-yard sack by linebacker Smael Mondon, Jr., included some bright spots, including two receptions by Adonai Mitchell. But it ended in a 47-yard field-goal attempt by Jack Podlesny that was wide left, giving the Buckeyes the ball back at their 29.

Ohio State went right to work, with Stroud hitting Marvin Harrison, Jr., for a 24-yard gain on first down. Later, on second-and-7 at the UGA 31, Stroud rolled to his right to avoid pressure, waited a moment, and then hit Harrison on the right side of the end zone for the game's first score, putting the Buckeyes up 7-0 with 8:16 left in the opening quarter.

Georgia responded quickly with a drive that showed off a lot of weapons. Bennett hit Dominick Blaylock on the left side for a 20-yard gain on third-and-10 at the UGA 25. Two plays later, Daijun Edwards pinballed off of a Buckeye and scampered for an 18-yard gain to the OSU 47. On the next play, Bennett rolled right and hit Brock Bowers for a 17-yard gain.

Bennett was sacked for a 7-yard loss on the next play, but on second-and-17 at the 25, he threw a quick strike to Kenny McIntosh, lined up in the left slot, and the running back made one cut and then took off for the end zone. Podlesny's extra point tied the game 7-7 with 3:15 remaining in the first. Bennett completed 9 of 10 passes for 110 yards and the touchdown in the first quarter.

The Buckeyes regained the lead, 14-7, on their next drive, on Miyan Williams' 2-yard run. The Bulldogs' nearly got a takeaway earlier in the drive when cornerback Kelee Ringo punched the ball out of Harrison's arms on a 24-yard completion, but the ball rolled out of bounds before any men in red could dive on it.

Ohio State got the ball right back, deep in Georgia territory, after a Bennett pass was intercepted by Steele Chambers and returned 15 yards to the UGA 30. The Buckeyes pushed their lead to 21-7 with 10:56 left in the half on Stroud's 16-yard touchdown pass to Harrison in the back right corner of the end zone. The deficit was the largest the Bulldogs had faced all season.

In need of a response, Georgia delivered it quickly. Edwards broke free for a 21-yard gain on the first play of the ensuing drive. Later, Bennett hit wideout Arian Smith deep for a 47-yard gain to the 11. On the next play, running back Kendall Milton ran the ball in on the right side for a touchdown, cutting OSU's lead to 21-14 with 9:16 on the clock.

Georgia's defense got a big stop on OSU's next drive, with linebacker Mykel Williams sacking Stroud for a 9-yard loss to the Buckeye 19 on third down. The Bulldogs started their next drive at their 38, with 7:41 to play in the half. They ended it with a 3-yard Bennett touchdown run, and Podlesny's extra point tied the game 21-21 with 6:07 to play in the half.

The drive began emphatically, with McIntosh taking a handoff and bursting free up the left hash after a couple of cuts. But he tripped after looking behind him and fell at the OSU 10, after a 52-yard gain. Edwards then ran the ball for 7 yards, to the 3, and Bennett did the rest. After that drive, the Bulldogs were averaging 11.9 yards per play for the game.

Georgia's defense got a second straight quick stop, and after a punt the offense took over at the Georgia 32. On third-and-6, Bennett fired a strike to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint for a 28-yard gain. Milton then ran for 15 yards to the 20 on the next play. On fourth-and-4 at the 14, with 1:49 left in the half, Georgia opted for a 32-yard Podlesny field goal that put the Bulldogs in front for the first time, 24-21, giving Georgia 17 unanswered points after falling behind 21-7.

Ohio State got the ball back with 1:44 to play in the half and very quickly found the end zone, regaining the lead, 28-24, on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Stroud to Xavier Johnson with 49 seconds remaining. The 28 points were the most Georgia's defense has allowed this season and the second-most it had allowed in a game.

Georgia was forced to punt on the opening possession of the second half, and Ohio State's offense went back to work against a Bulldog defense struggling to defend the pass. A couple of big completions helped the Buckeyes move into the red zone, and a 10-yard touchdown pass on third down, from Stroud to Emeka Egbuka, make it 35-24 with 10:37 left in the third.

With 31 seconds left in the third quarter, the Buckeyes added to their lead with a 25-yard Noah Ruggles field goal that made it 38-24. Podlesny cut into the lead with a 31-yard field goal with 10:14 left in the game, making it a 38-27 game.

After Georgia's defense forced a punt, Bennett on the first play of the ensuing drive hit Smith for a 76-yard touchdown to cut the margin 38-33 with 8:41 remaining. Georgia tried for a two-point conversion and Bennett hit Ladd McConkey on the right side, making the score 38-35. Smith somehow got way behind the Buckeye defense and had nothing between him and the end zone but about 30 yards of green turf.

Ohio State added a Ruggles 48-yard field goal with 2:43 to play to push its lead to 41-35, giving the Bulldogs at least a shot at pulling out the comeback win. And Georgia made the most of its shot, executing a 5-play, 72-yard drive in 102 seconds that culminated in a 10-yards touchdown pass from Bennett to Mitchell in the left corner of the end zone. Podlesny's extra point put the Bulldogs ahead 42-41 with 54 seconds left.

Stroud led the Buckeyes down the field on their final drive, running and throwing Ohio State into Georgia territory. His 27-yard scramble reached the 31-yard line with 24 seconds left, setting up Ruggles for a 50-yard attempt with eight seconds left. It never had a chance, missing well left.

Georgia got the ball back with three seconds on the clock and Bennett, his eyes clearly filled with tears on the TV broadcast, ran out to kneel down and send the Bulldogs to the National Championship Game.

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